I can really relate to your feeling a little lost in this material.
I have been a working jeweler and teacher for many years and it took
a while for me to understand how to handle it. I now really enjoy
working with it and incorporating it in my work. It is NOT the "end
all -- be all" in jewelry making techniques. It will not replace
traditional techniques of fabrication or casting. But it will do
things neither of those will do and can expand the possibilities in
Here are several tips that I can give you to start:
- When you are working with the clay, work on a surface that the
clay will easily lift off. I use a Teflon baking sheet and it works
very well without any treatment. Other plastic sheets may need a
LIGHT coating of Pam spray to help the clay release.
2.Keep a small spray bottle of water and some baby wipes nearby when
you are working. If the clay starts to show cracks, lightly mist it
with the water and roll it to mix the water in. You can put the clay
in plastic wrap to mix it if you want to keep it off your hands. I
keep my "clay in waiting" on my bench, wrapped first in the plastic
wrapper it comes in with a baby wipe wrapped around it. Whenever the
baby wipe gets a little dry, I spray it with my water bottle to keep
it wet. This keeps my clay in good shape until I can get to it. This
is not for long term storage, only for working time storage.
There are a multitude of things you can do with the clay. It can
be put in a mold (be sure it will release), or approach it like you
would working in porcelain. You can roll it into a slab and texture,
cut, form, fold, etc. You can pinch it or make it into a coil. You
can make part, let it dry, work on it later. Once completely dry, it
can be worked with burs or files. Save the dust as it can be
reconstituted into clay again. One of the things I would highly
recommend is to play in it. It is a VERY forgiving medium. The clay
can be reconstituted even if it becomes completely hard. Just grind
it up and very little water while mixing with a small pallet knife.
Keep in mind that your clay will shrink. The amount of shrinkage
depends on the clay you purchased. You can use this to your
advantage in certain situations, but you do need to allow in your
design for it to happen.
The piece can be added to or reworked after drying. It can also
be added to after firing and can be re-fired multiple times.
As far as stone setting, Many stones will go through the firing
process if you fire in a kiln. They recommend 7 or above on the Mohs
hardness scale, but you also have to consider inclusions or fractures
in the stone and whether or not it has been heat treated or dyed.
Diamonds do NOT work to fire in place. I have had good success with
garnet and of course with the synthetics. Any stone I plan to use in
the clay, I send through a firing first by itself. That way if it
changes color or cracks, it will do it before I have a piece planned
around it. You can also make a bezel in the traditional manner and
shove it into the clay. The clay will shrink, but the bezel will not
and you can use traditional setting techniques to set your stone.
I would be happy to walk you through some other basic things if you
want to contact me off line as I am quite sure I have through bored
most of Orchid!!
Have a great time with it. It is really fun.